Roberto Luongo has been sent home, but which direction are the Vancouver Canucks headed?
With his team two points out of a playoff spot and 19 games remaining, Canucks general manager Mike Gillis finally unloaded his star goalie
to the Florida Panthers Tuesday for two young NHL players who have been underachievers so far in their careers.
Gillis sent Luongo, along with minor-leaguer Steven Anthony, to the Panthers in exchange for 24-year-old goalie Jacob Markstrom and 26-year-old forward Shawn Matthias. Vancouver still is on the hook for 15 per cent of Luongo's contract, which after this season has eight more years and $35.2-million US remaining.
Anthony, 22, played on a line with Panthers with current Panthers stud Jonathan Huberdeau on the 2010-11 Memorial Cup-winning Saint John Sea Dogs.
So where does this move leave the Canucks? Thirty-two months removed from their trip to the Stanley Cup final, will Gillis also unload star centre Ryan Kesler and defenceman Alex Edler before the trade deadline on Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET?
Does he throw Lack and Markstrom into the down-the-stretch hot seat, even though they only have a combined 68 NHL appearances and 20 victories? Or does Gillis make another move for a proven goalie to get his club through the final six weeks and possibly the playoffs?
And we can't wait to see what happens when Luongo could face his old club on March 16, when the Canucks visit Florida.
So basically the Canucks received in return for one of the better goalie tandems Bo Horvat, Matthias and Markstrom. Gillis can't be done, can he?
"I don't know if we're done yet or not," Gillis said. "We're trying to get younger, get more depth and more balance.
"I like Jacob Markstrom, I think he's a good young goalie. I like Shawn Matthias and I like Bo Horvat. He'll play for us soon."
Luongo deserved better in Vancouver
. After he helped Canada win Olympic gold in Vancouver and helped the Canucks advance all the way to Game 7 in the 2010-11 Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins, he was deemed a backup in the first-round of the 2012 post-season.
Schneider became the Canucks' guy in goal, but Gillis couldn't find a new home for Luongo. At the trade 2013 deadline, the frustration was evident. Anybody remember Luongo's classic "my contract sucks
Gillis did his best to trade Luongo. The best offer he had was from the Toronto Maple Leafs. But according to TSN's Darren Dreger, the Leafs only offered goalie Ben Scrivens and a draft pick and asked the Canucks to pick up $1-million a season of Luongo's contract.
Instead, Schneider was traded to New Jersey at the draft last June for the ninth overall selection, which turned out to be Horvat of the London Knights.
For Luongo, he returns to the Panthers, where he was situated before the Canucks traded for him eight seasons ago. He met his wife Gina in South Florida and still spends his summers there.
This is the place he wanted to land. His new agent, Pat Brisson, helped facilitate the move after the weekend debacle, in which he was embarrassed and disappointed he watched Lack play in the Heritage Classic from the end of the bench.
Panthers GM Dale Tallon stated that he and Gillis had their first discussion late on Monday afternoon and the big reason a deal was made now instead of at the draft was the old ownership could not afford to bring Luongo's hefty pay cheque aboard.
Having Luongo, 34, and the 39-year-old Tim Thomas in the same dressing room is a bit of a laugher, considering their "pump his tires" exchange in the Stanley Cup Final three years ago.
Tallon remarked that he will ask Thomas what he wants to do, stay or move on. Thomas signed only for this season, but he has a no-movement clause in his contract.
This deal stunned Luongo. He went from un-tradeable to tradable.
Now he has the fresh start he deserved two years ago. The Canucks? These certainly are curious times for Gillis and Co.
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